estimated number of Sub-Saharan migrants in Algeria
Arrests migrants in Algeria and their expulsion to Niger increased in 2018. These ongoing and repeated incidents are exacerbating the health and social conditions of migrants which were already a cause for concern. People are apprehended by the Algerian authorities on buses, in taxis and in their homes and workplaces, regardless of nationality and sometimes separating families and isolating minors. Night-time raids are carried out in residential areas, resulting in mass arrests. Hundreds of Sub-Saharan migrants, including women and children, are taken by bus or in trucks across the Sahara and abandoned on the border with Niger. From there they are forced to travel a long way on foot to reach Assamaka, the nearest town to the border in Niger.
Forced to live in hiding for months, they are extremely vulnerable.
For those who manage to evade these expulsions the situation nevertheless remains fraught. Fearing arrest, the migrants shut themselves away in their homes or workplaces. Forced to live in hiding for months, they are extremely vulnerable. Their access to healthcare is disrupted and their situation is therefore a matter of increasing concern.
The discrimination experienced by migrants is reinforced by the political discourse and repressive legislation of the Algerian government in relation to migrants whose status is irregular, as well as to the Algerian citizens and professionals who provide them with assistance.
Uncertain access to healthcare for sub-saharan migrants
Stigmatised and often subjected to violence, it can be difficult for Sub-Saharan migrants in Algeria to access healthcare, despite the fact that, in principle, the system allows universal, free access to healthcare facilities. The situation is slowly improving, but considerable work is still required to tackle stigmatisation so that migrant communities can obtain effective access to healthcare. Efforts are also needed to ensure recognition of their rights, for instance in relation to education and housing.
Access to social security is not available to Sub-Saharan scholarship students or to people who are working illegally and are particularly exposed to the possibility of serious accidents at work.
No access to sexual and reproductive healthcare for women
Access to sexual and reproductive healthcare remains very difficult, owing to lack of knowledge in migrant communities, cultural differences, the practices of healthcare providers who restrict access to contraception and Algerian law which prohibits abortion. As a result, women do not routinely have access to gynaecological and obstetric care. A lot of women have experienced sexual violence during their migration journey or while they have been staying in or transiting Algerian towns and cities. Many turn to networks of traffickers to get to the cities and are forced to work in brothels to pay for the journey from their country of origin to their destination country (often in Europe and sometimes in Algeria). These women are isolated, deprived of freedom of movement and have no access to healthcare or to their rights.
In Algiers Médecins du Monde is supporting the transfer to local organisation, Caritas Alger, of a project we have run since 2011. The project seeks to improve migrants’ access to healthcare. It involves providing community support and guidance, directing people to healthcare facilities or referring them to civil society organisations. Migrant community liaison workers and medical advisors carry out medical check-ups in areas where migrants live which facilitates rapid access to treatment and monitoring of chronic conditions and enables people to be directed to the appropriate healthcare facilities.
The initiative facilitates the provision of local, mobile support which targets the most vulnerable and least mobile communities. At the same time, listening activities are also provided for the communities targeted. Medical advice, psychological support, non-therapeutic support groups and awareness-raising sessions are made available.
In Oran, Médecins du Monde works with four local organisations to support migrant and Algerian women. Medical, psychological and legal services are provided at a secure and confidential location, called the Jardin des Femmes (Women’s Garden), and mobile services have also been established to offer support on a case-by-case basis across a wider area.
In addition, MdM supports Algerian organisations involved in supporting and protecting migrants. We help with coordination and capacity-building through the Plateforme Migration Algérie (PMA). Regular inter-organisational meetings have been established with the intention of creating a space to share experiences, engage in dialogue and provide operational support to respond to specific needs among migrant communities. A website has been set up and three partner organisations will receive funding to implement activities aimed at migrant communities. Training in management of human and financial resources is provided for members to support them in managing their projects.
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